A Fairfax judge sided with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in his effort to oust a union executive from the region's airports board.
Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Lorraine Nordlund, in a ruling issued Friday, said McDonnell acted under the appropriate authority when he removed Dennis Martire from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, or MWAA, board last month, dealing a blow to Martire and authority lawyers, who argued McDonnell was crossing the legal line with the ouster.
McDonnell said he removed Martire, a vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, because of potential conflicts of interest the labor union official could have on the board that oversees the $6 billion Dulles Rail project. McDonnell also cited Martire's lavish trips overseas at the authority's expense to locales like Sardinia, Italy, and Prague.
The dust-up over Martire's removal was the latest conflict faced by the airports board, which has endured a storm of criticism from McDonnell and other Virginia officials over costs and the authority's earlier preference for a union-friendly labor agreement on the rail project.
McDonnell appointed McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick to fill Martire's seat. And Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said the governor expects the authority to allow Merrick to cast her first votes at a meeting Wednesday.
Both Martire and Merrick were seated to the side at the last meeting, barred from speaking or voting.
"They do not have the authority to prevent the seating of Ms. Merrick, and they do not have the authority to deny the Commonwealth of Virginia its legal rights to that seat," Connaughton told The Washington Examiner. "If they end up denying Ms. Merrick that seat, it has the potential to completely unravel the airports authority."
It was unclear Monday how the authority would deal with Merrick.SClB"We continue to await the final ruling of the court on this matter," airports spokesman Rob Yingling said. "Once the court reaches a final ruling, we will comply."
Martire could not be reached Monday for comment.
Martire and the authority can appeal the judge's decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. Martire has a second lawsuit against McDonnell pending in a D.C. court.